Pacemaker users get digital radio warning

Breathtaking technology

A reader was taken aback when he took delivery of digital radio handset from Motorola that contained a series of warnings for pacemaker users.

The Motorola d700 handsets, which will be used in a Terrestrial Trunk Radio (TETRA) digital communications project, contain recommendations from the Health Industry Manufacturers Association which advise a minimum separation of 15cm between a handset and a pacemaker.

This advice, albeit well intentioned, leads to a number of surprising tips.

Pacemaker users should not keep handsets in their breast pockets and furthermore should "use the ear opposite the pacemaker to minimise the potential for interference".

It goes on: "if you have any reason to suspect that interference is taking place" with a pacemaker you should "turn the handset OFF immediately" -- that's if you've not been hit by shortness of breath, of course.

We gather there's also warnings about hearing aids, "other medical devices", explosives, and a range of other things, which leads our reader to conclude that "it's hardly surprising people are scared of these things".

A health and safety expert at Motorola confirmed the information and pointed out, quite reasonably, that the instructions are part of the training it provides its users to make sure its equipment is used safely.

He said that "similar power levels" were used by Tetra and GSM equipment, which means that interference levels were "not horrifically different", though higher, than older analogue technologies commonly in use today by emergency services, the chief market for Tetra.

So, should pacemaker users avoid mobile phones? Well the issue seems to have more to do with the electrical immunity, or lack of it, associated with a particular pacemaker -- whose manufacturers ought to provide concerned users with all the information they need.

It makes you think though. ®

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